Authorities in Calais were forced to use water cannons as hundreds of illegal migrants tried to get aboard a ferry bound for England on Tuesday.
Crowds tried to overpower security staff and police as they attempted to run up the main ramp of a P&O Ferries vehicle hold.
John Bailey, who witnessed the incident, said: “The migrants were escorted back down the ramp by the police and led out of the port, shouting at some people in the vehicle queue.”
Speaking to the BBC he spoke of his surprise to see a standoff between a group determined to board the ferry and French police who were carrying sub-machine guns.
The ship was delayed for 45 minutes as officials searched for illegal stowaways as a result of what P&O Ferries called a “huge intrusion”.
The attempt came a day after a threat by the Mayor of Calais to shut down the town’s port to make what she called a “strong gesture” towards Britain.
Natacha Bouchart is fed up with the thousands sleeping rough in her town before making a bid to cross the channel.
The Mayor wants Britain to share the burden and make a financial contribution towards the annual cost of 10 million euros a year.